A Soldier's Death on a Stunning Day in Iraq
Pentagon correspondent Anna Mulrine was traveling with soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division one recent afternoon north of Baghdad, in the hotly contested city of Baqubah, when a routine humanitarian mission turned deadly as their convoy was struck by a roadside bomb.
The critical moments before and after the explosion mirror the daily experience of soldiers throughout Iraq, who today are being killed in roadside bombs at a higher rate than at any other time during the war.
When you're riding in a convoy with U.S. soldiers as an embedded reporter here, without looking at an incident map you can generally tell when you're hitting particularly dangerous territory. That's because many of the soldiers will simply tell you that you're hitting particularly dangerous territory. Others just grow a little more silent and a lot more vigilant, helping the driver scan for possible signs of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), guiding him around suspicious stretches of curb, advising him to give the parked car ahead a wide berth.
Frequently punctuating the stretches of silence is the solid sense of humor that it takes to break the tension of braving some of the most dangerous roads in the world, often two and three and four times a day. Spend enough time in Iraq, for example, and you're bound to build up your repertoire of Chuck Norris jokes. One of the common denominators in bases all over the country is that these jokes are extremely popular with soldiers, and especially beloved by soldiers who head out on convoys every day. A few examples:
- Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas. - When the boogeyman goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris. - There is no such thing as evolutiononly a tiny list of creatures that Chuck Norris decided to let live. - The dinosaurs angered Chuck Norris once. Only once. - When Chuck Norris does a push-up, he's not pushing himself up. He's pushing the Earth down.
I could go on for a while, as I have grown to love these jokes, but you get the point. Suffice it to say that they are a nod to crazy strength and invulnerabilitythe kind (along with a sizable dose of bravery and a solid sense of humor)that it takes to run these convoys.
The soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division introduced me to Chuck Norris jokes in Baqubah, one of the more dicey places in the country right now.
I was spending the day with their military transition team (MiTT), heading to a town outside the city that, some 24 hours earlier, had been the site of a raid targeting al Qaeda insurgents. We were about to embark on the carrots portion of the operation.
"We're going to try to develop some goodwill," says Lt. Col. Tim Karcher, the brigade's transition team commander, as the MiTT team is loading up the humvees, or trucks as the soldiers tend to call them, with blankets, kerosene, and water. The soldiers will be setting an example for some of their Iraqi Army counterpartssoldiers who, they note, haven't yet quite embraced the idea of carrots.